# [Numeracy 271] Re: Is an absolute value positive?

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Michael Gyori tesolmichael at yahoo.com
Wed Mar 31 21:38:22 EDT 2010

How about that they exist and that the human mind conceives of charges that it characterizes as negative and positive?

Michael A. Gyori
Maui International Language School
www.mauilanguage.com

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From: "Kohring, Aaron M" <akohring at utk.edu>
To: The Math and Numeracy Discussion List <numeracy at nifl.gov>
Sent: Wed, March 31, 2010 10:55:29 AM
Subject: [Numeracy 267] Re: Is an absolute value positive?

Hmmm…  So, I wonder what scientists would have to say about electrons and protons?
Aaron

From:numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov] On Behalf Of Chip Burkitt
Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 4:31 PM
To: numeracy at nifl.gov
Subject: [Numeracy 266] Re: Is an absolute value positive?

Aaron and All,

It's a kind of philosophical question. I can count marbles, for example. If I have 3 marbles and take away 2, I'm left with 1. If I have 3 marbles, and I take away 4... Wait a minute; everyone knows I can't take away 4 marbles from 3. When it comes to counting things you can touch and see, you can't have a number less than zero. We only use negative numbers to count or measure conceptualized quantities. For example, we have negative numbers on the temperature scale because we have chosen by convention to start the scale at 0 where water freezes. If we start at absolute zero, we can only have positive numbers. (Temperature measures the average motion of molecules in a substance. At absolute zero, all molecular motion stops. You can't have less motion than none.) Similarly, sea level is an arbitrary spot for measuring heights and depths. If we started instead from the center of the earth, there would be no negative heights or depths. Negative numbers are a
mathematical abstraction that allow us to find answers to certain kinds of problems, primarily subtraction problems where the number being subtracted is greater than the one being subtracted from.

If I could take 4 marbles from 3, then I would have an absence to contend with, and the mind recoils from the presence of an absence. I would have to add a marble to this absence in order to have nothing. In this sense, Michael is right; negative numbers have no existence. I was merely being glib when I made the crack about my bank account.

On 3/31/2010 12:06 PM, Kohring, Aaron M wrote:
Michael,

I’m not sure I understand your statements.

If amounts to the left of zero on a number line are ‘negative’ and distances below sea level are considered ‘negative’ and temperatures below zero are considered ‘negative’.  Then doesn’t that distance to the left or below or downward serve as a definition for ‘negative’?
Aaron

Aaron Kohring
Research Associate
UT Center for Literacy Studies
600 Henley St, Ste 312
Knoxville, TN 37996-4135
Ph:  865-974-4258  865-974-4258
Main:  865-974-4109  865-974-4109
Fax: 865-974-3857
akohring at utk.edu

From:numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov] On Behalf Of Michael Gyori
Sent: Wednesday, March 31, 2010 12:24 PM
To: The Math and Numeracy Discussion List
Subject: [Numeracy 261] Re: Is an absolute value positive?

Greetings Chip and all,

Unfortunately, what you owe is a positive amount (the distance from zero to the left or downward). This might serve as a good example of why absolute values are positive.

The negative has no existence other than a notation on a balance sheet.

Michael

Michael A. Gyori
Maui International Language School
www.mauilanguage.com

________________________________

From:Chip Burkitt <chip.burkitt at orderingchaos.com>
To: numeracy at nifl.gov
Sent: Wed, March 31, 2010 3:23:50 AM
Subject: [Numeracy 259] Re: Is an absolute value positive?

Wow! I wish I could get my bank to agree that negative numbers have no existence. I'd never be overdrawn again.

On 3/31/2010 1:38 AM, Michael Gyori wrote:
Greetings Carol and all,

I suppose the question is what is meant by "positive." If we view numbers to represent quantities (of whatever), then they are intrinsically positive. Negative quantities have no existence, and perhaps we can regard the notion of absolute value to reflect just that.

As for teaching absolute values to "struggling" learners, my sense is we shouldn't underestimate their ability to make sense of things.  Quite on the contrary, the challenge lies in our (educators') ability to facilitate meaning.

Michael

Michael A. Gyori
Maui International Language School
www.mauilanguage.com

________________________________

From:Carol King <cking at lyon.k12.nv.us>
To: The Math and Numeracy Discussion List <numeracy at nifl.gov>
Sent: Tue, March 30, 2010 9:12:47 AM
Subject: [Numeracy 250] Re: what is the difference between....
I would point out that technically an absolute value is not a positive number. It represents the distance from 0 either negatively or positively on the number line.  It operates mathematically like a positive number, but it is not the same as the positive number.  I don’t know if I would share that with struggling students.
Carol King
cking at lyon.k12.nv.us

________________________________

From:numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov [mailto:numeracy-bounces at nifl.gov] On Behalf Of Michael Gyori
Sent: Monday, March 29, 2010 4:55 PM
To: The Math and Numeracy Discussion List
Subject: [Numeracy 241] Re: what is the difference between....

Hi again George and all,

If /-6/ means the absolute value of negative 6, then I stand corrected.  I didn't realize the forward slashes might have been bars.

In that case, absolute values are positive.  So, the negative of the absolute value of -6, which is +6, = -6.  On the other hand, -(-6) [i.e, in parentheses] would be positive 6.

Also, I always teach part numbers (fractions, decimals, and percents) before I teach integers.  I find it interesting that you delve into integers first.  Do you have a reason for doing so?

Michael

Michael A. Gyori
Maui International Language School
www.mauilanguage.com

________________________________

From:Michael Gyori <tesolmichael at yahoo.com>
To: The Math and Numeracy Discussion List <numeracy at nifl.gov>
Sent: Mon, March 29, 2010 1:30:03 PM
Subject: [Numeracy 237] Re: what is the difference between....
Hello George and all,

See my attempt at making sense of your message.  I will embed my thoughts in green into your post below:

Michael

Michael A. Gyori
Maui International Language School
www.mauilanguage.com

________________________________

From:George Demetrion < gdemetrion at msn.com >
To: Numeracy List <numeracy at nifl.gov>
Sent: Mon, March 29, 2010 10:18:55 AM
Subject: [Numeracy 235] what is the difference between....
Good afternoon colleagues.

In my newly articulated and highly pleasant role as a Transition to College math teacher, I've come ac ross the following

-22
When a number is positive, we don't sign it.  For example, 2+2=4 really means +2 (+) + 2 = + 4.
In that vein,  we really have negative times positive 2 squared  (or the negative of positive 2 squared) equals -4.
(-2)2
In this case, the 2 is signed as a negative, or you can see it as the negative of positive 2 = negative two, times itself, = +4.
I teach my students rather early on that unsigned numbers are actually signed by an invisible "+" before them, just like whole number have an invisible point (.) to their right, which is the border separating whole numbers from decimals (part numbers).  345 is the same as 345.
Something "of something" is always multiplication.  In the case of - +, we are saying the negativeof positive, which leads me to negative times positive.  That leads me to teach (also quite early on) the golden rules, namely, positive x positive and negative x negative = positive, while negative times positive or positive times negative = negative.

According to my book the answer to the first problem is -4 while the answer to the second is 4.  The examples are easy enough to follow, but a little light on the explanation.  In the first problem the notation in the book states that 2 is the base; thus (2.2)=4 and, I assume, we keep the negative sign, so that the answer becomes -4.  The second problem is easy enough.  I get (-2.-2)=4.

What's missing as far as I'm concerned is a clear and simple explanation  of the reasoning behind the first problem - 22 d

I deduced that the second problem is based on an order of operations problem solving menthodology and I'm thinking the same thing for the first problem in which the negative sign indicated a -1.  Thus, on this hypothesis, I am carrying out an order of operation (exponent first, including the implied paranthesis (2.2) multiplied by -1 in which this later stage is last on the order of operations process.

Questions:

1. Is my hypothesis for problem #1 correct?
2.  If not, what would be the correct explanation?
3. Whether or not the hypothesis is correct what woould be the simplist accurate explanation  to provide my students with?

One more question -/-6/= -6, which I translate to mean is that the opposite of the absolute number -6 has an absolute value of 6; therefore its opposite is -6.
-/-6/ = -6 strikes me as being incorrect. If I'm wrong, PLEASE CORRECT ME:  In language, the equations reads to me, negative times negative 6 = POSITIVE 6, because a negative times a negative = a positive.
a)  is this correct
b) If so, is there an easier way to state it?
c) If it is correct what is the best way to teach it to TCC students with limited mathematical experience
d) If it is incorrect, what would be the correct answer?

Okay, we're just about through with integers.  Onto fractions.

Best,

George Demetrion

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